The NTRA Players Panel is fashioning position papers on several issues that impact horse racing and wagering, including the integrity of pools, rebating, pari-mutuel takeout, withholding taxes, and customer service.
The panel, members of which met Sept. 23 in Las Vegas as part of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Annual Meeting and Marketing Summit, was formed last year a few weeks after the Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick 6 fraud was uncovered. Since that time, it has tackled other issues that impact the bettor and the public's perception of horse racing.
Jim Quinn, the NTRA Players' Representative, said one of the more pressing issues for bettors are changes in odds after off time. Quinn called it a "serious problem" because the perception is insiders are using technology to bet while a race is in progress.
"The perception is out there, and it's relatively widespread," Quinn said. "Perhaps a more serious issue is that bettors are losing value after a race has begun."
Ken Kirchner, vice president of product development for the NTRA and Breeders' Cup, said tote systems and technology must be upgraded to help combat that problem and others in the pari-mutuel industry.
"We need to move tote systems into the 21st century," Kirchner said. "We as an industry will sink if we don't address what these guys are talking about...The architecture of the system has to be changed. The Office of Wagering Security wants to move in that direction, but it would require a complete cooperative effort of the racetrack executive level to move tote companies in the direction we want them to move."
Quinn said the "complicated issue" of rebates must be looked at from all sides, including those of racetracks and horsemen's associations. Some wagering providers offer rebates to customers; in the terms of a racetrack, the money comes from commissions, not from betting pools.
Dave Gutfreund, a professional handicapper from Illinois, said handle in the United States has grown tremendously because of rebates. He and other panelists, including Mike Maloney, a professional handicapper from Kentucky, believe they serve an important purpose and at the same time don't negatively impact bettors that don't receive rebates.
In regard to other issues, Gutfreund said dissemination of information through simulcast networks must be improved to ensure the public is promptly receiving accurate information. He touched on everything from probable payoffs to late scratches.
Maloney, who said he wagered about $10 million on racing last year, called for changes in withholding-tax laws. He said because of the way the system is set up, he might have to wait months to get his money back, and that in turn impacts his ability to wager -- and even pay some bills. He said he currently is being audited by the state of Kentucky, and in turn can't get $50,000 he has coming to him.
"I've had to liquidate long-term investments to stay in the game," Maloney said. "This is prevalent with larger players."
The Players Panel has had regular conference calls. The Sept. 23 meeting was its first with an audience, and the proceedings were available for viewing through the Daily Racing Form and NTRA web sites. The panel was moderated by DRF editor and publisher Steve Crist, who complimented the panel on its work thus far.
"If I saw these people sitting at a poker table, I would just keep walking," Crist said.
Other members of the panel are Ponti Compagna of Texas, Paul Cornman of New York, Dave Cuscuna of Florida, Andy Cylke of California, Cory Fotias of New York, Barry Meadow of California, Jim Mineo of Florida, and Maury Wolff of Maryland.